Friday, March 21, 2014

May 4, 1939: Opa Asks My Questions

Opa's original letter to Miss Derenberger at AFSC

Translation of Opa's original letter to Miss Derenberg at AFSC


Dear Miss Derenberg,

May I tell you in addition re my studies:

At my friends' suggestion Prof. Albert Einstein wrote me a letter of recommendation of which I enclose a copy. Prof. Einstein's secretary, Miss Dukas, sent the recommendation to the "Refugee Section of the American Friends Service Committee". She then received this enclosed answer.*

I did not know that Miss Dukas would write to the American Friends Service Committee. The reason for my friends' intervention was only to get a testimonial from Prof. Einstein that my study in America would be desirable. - In order to fulfill one of the conditions that you mentioned in your letter. Now there are two cases in my name at the American F.S.C. obviously.

The answer of the Committee to Miss Dukas mentions a scholarship. As much as I desire this, if it asks for complications it may be better to wait with this question and to concentrate on getting a certificate that I am accepted in a University, that is to say do what you said in your letter is the condition for obtaining a student's visa. It would of course be marvelous if this certificate of being accepted could be united with a scholarship. 

In the recommendation that Prof. Einstein so kindly gave me there is one sentence which may be based on a misunderstanding, namely the sentence that I have already partly finished my studies as electrical engineer successfully. I think that perhaps the German final school examination counts as part of the university studies in America. Apart from this I have really continued working after the final exams privately. But I do not want to create a wrong impression because of this sentence in the recommendation letter.

Thanking you very much for your trouble,

Sincerely yours,

Thomas Doeppner

* Click here for the letter I think he is referring to.

Opa has gotten some sort of list that outlines what he is required to provide in order to obtain a student visa. Obviously the letter of recommendation from Albert Einstein fulfills (to the fullest) some criteria for a voucher of sorts to come from within the United States. Opa seems to be almost embarrassed of his good luck of getting the letter from Einstein. I think he is trying to establish the authenticity and genuineness of the letter.

Then Opa addresses the very questions I had in my last blog (I hadn’t read this yet- I promise!). Thank you Opa! So he basically makes the point that although he would really appreciate a scholarship, if an acceptance to a college is all that is necessary to obtain a student visa- then he doesn’t want a lack of scholarship to hold things up. Basically, Opa is saying - I’ll make it work with whatever you give me - but get me to the US! My thoughts exactly.

Then Opa makes a correction to Einstein’s letter of recommendation, saying that the allusion to his completion of electrical engineering studies is incorrect. Opa has done some private study after graduation, but nothing official. I remember him mentioning that he was taking classes at the local school in Amsterdam, but that he couldn’t afford to take any for credit and pay the tuition.

This whole letter from Opa is about crossing the t’s and dotting the i’s - getting every detail just right so that nothing stands in the way of him getting to the USA. How very German and rule-following of him.


  1. There is no link to the letter from Helene Dukas.

    1. Fixed it! Thanks Rachel! I'm also going back and reformatting to larger font, cleaner lines hopefully, and transcription where needed. You're keeping me on the ball! I appreciate it. :)


I would love to hear feedback! Share your thoughts and your stories.